A court order for a Beijing-based reporter to face libel charges in Liaoning province has triggered public outrage over what is widely perceived as an abuse of the justice system by mainland officials. Faren Magazine reporter Zhu Wenna wrote a story published on New Year's Day detailing allegedly illegal dealings and heavy-handed measures by Zhang Zhiguo, party chief of Xifeng county, in Liaoning province. Mr Zhang had ordered the jailing of a businesswoman for libel after the woman sent out a satirical text message alleging corruption by the party chief. The businesswoman sent the message to express her grievances about the forced demolition of her service station to make way for a market. She was given inadequate compensation, according to Ms Zhu's report. Chief operational officer of Faren Magazine, Li Shuoqiu , said four policemen from Xifeng county turned up at the magazine on Friday to serve the subpoena on Ms Zhu over the January 1 report. Mr Li said the report did not constitute libel and the subpoena was 'absurd because Xifeng police have gone too far'. Ms Zhu was tipped off about the police and stayed away from the office. Mr Li said the officers promised to return to the magazine for the reporter yesterday, but did not show up. Several major mainland news portals including www.people . com.cn, the website of the People's Daily party mouthpiece, reported on the subpoena and have since been inundated with comments critical of the Xifeng officials. 'Who has given the party chief this power and made him so blatant?' one commentator asked. Liu Fengyi , a deputy director of the county's party publicity department, said he was not aware of the subpoena for Ms Zhu and would not confirm whether the party boss had lodged a lawsuit against the reporter. 'But the report she wrote is critically flawed,' Mr Liu said. Ms Zhu said yesterday she could not say how objective her own report was, 'but I acted properly in the whole process of the reporting trip in Xifeng'. Zhou Ze, a lawyer representing Ms Zhu, said that under mainland law libel was a civil offence and not a criminal one, so a person should not be subject to a public prosecution involving a police subpoena unless it 'seriously jeopardises social order or national interests'. Mr Zhou added that the subpoena was a typical case of abuse of public resources by officials who regarded police as their 'hit men'. However, Beijing lawyer Xu Can said civil libel law was still vague and open to interpretation. 'The police could have interpreted the article as damaging social order in Xifeng county,' he said. But Mr Xu also said reporters should be given immunity from prosecution unless they intentionally wrote untrue reports.